A treat this year in London has been two summer pavilions, one at the Serpentine Gallery, a continuation of their excellent long-standing programme, and a new initiative at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Sensibly, as it has turned out, both were designed for the rain which has characterised London’s weather this summer.
Imagine the green grass of Kensington Gardens are the plains of Africa with a large tree or village building under which the community comes together to meet up. This is the inspiration for the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion designed by architect Francis Kéré.
Protective curving geometric indigo-coloured walls with a triangular decorative pattern surround the pavilion. Overhead the timber-framed canopy supported on an elegant structure slopes to the centre where, when it rains, there will be a curtain of water. In keeping with the community theme, the architect has also designed the stools and the moulded timber slide for children outside.
Kéré, who now practices in Berlin, was born in Burkina Faso in West Africa, and was the first child in his village to be sent to school. He then qualified as an architect at the Technical University of Berlin, since when he gained recognition for the design of his projects around the world, including a number of school buildings in the village of his birth.
“I was inspired by the big tree in my native village of Gando. The community always gathers in its shade. I wanted to create a place that would encourage people to come together, with spaces where you feel enclosed and protected, or choose to look out to the park.”
Dulwich Picture Gallery’s first summer pavilion is a much more economical structure, to a considerably lower budget than the Serpentine’s, designed by local architects IF_DO. Almost industrial in its construction, it makes clever use of reflective mirrored walls (which also contain storage) so that the roof seems to float across the garden as the brickwork of the Picture Gallery and the grass and trees of the garden are reflected in the mirrors.
Hopefully this will be the start of a regular programme at Dulwich, so that we can look forward to two summer pavilions in London each summer, one designed by an international architect, as at the Serpentine, and one by a small local practice, as at Dulwich.